Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1206, (17-23 July 2014)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1206, (17-23 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Missile and mortar fire in Sinai

Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claims responsibility for three missiles fired at Al-Arish. Ahmed Morsy reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Thousands attended the funeral on Monday in Al-Arish of eight victims killed by mortar attacks claimed by Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.

The mortar rounds fired late Sunday at a military post close to residential buildings in the Al-Salam district of the town killed one soldier and seven civilians, including a child, and left dozens injured.

The head of Al-Arish hospital Sami Anwar told reporters 25 were injured.

The army immediately issued a press release saying the recent attack would not stop them from defending the security and stability of the country or deter them from continuing the “war on terrorism”.

A day later Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The group killed a number of civilians by mistake while targeting a security forces camp in Al-Arish yesterday,” Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis announced on Monday on a Twitter account associated with the group.

The militant group has claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks, including bombing gas pipelines, assassination attempts and ambushes that have killed dozens of soldiers and policemen.

In previous releases Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has claimed it is seeking revenge “from security and army forces” for “suppressing and killing Egyptian civilians” during and after the forcible dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins last August. Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in July was followed by a militant insurgency in the Sinai targeting security officials. The attacks prompted a heavy military presence on the peninsula, leading militant groups in Sinai to shift their focus to other provinces in Egypt.

“We launched three other missiles,” the Al-Qaeda-inspired militant group said. “One of them landed in the desert and the other two hit targets at the security post.”

State-run news agency MENA reported the prosecution began investigating the attacks on Monday with forensic examination of shrapnel and interviews with eye-witnesses, including the injured. 

The attacks were condemned by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb’s government and by Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam.

North Sinai Governor Al-Sayed Harhour announced compensation of LE10,000 for the families of those killed and LE5,000 for the injured.

“The use of mortars by Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis is new,” notes military expert Khaled Okasha.

Though Okasha believes that Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis undertook the operation in support of Hamas, “to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities to keep the Rafah crossing open”, he discounts the possibility of direct Hamas involvement, noting only that “Hamas indirectly supports Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis”.

 As Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip continued, two rockets, reportedly launched from Sinai in the early hours of Tuesday, landed in Eilat. Reuters cited Israeli security officials saying the rockets originated in Sinai, fired by Islamist militants in an attempt to upstage Cairo’s efforts to mediate a truce

Till Al-Ahram Weekly went to press no group had claimed responsibility for the Eilat attack. Officials say they foiled an earlier attempt in Sinai to fire rockets at Israel on Sunday.

Al-Dostour Party condemned “terrorist” attacks in Al-Arish, describing those responsible as “criminal organisations” in a statement released on Monday. The party called on the government to be “more transparent” about the situation in North Sinai and make public details of the confrontation with terrorist organisations in the Sinai Peninsula throughout the past year.

Al-Dostour said respecting citizens’ rights was essential to “guarantee solidarity with efforts exerted to face terrorist organisations” and stressed the importance of “firmly” chasing those responsible for the attacks and bringing them to justice.

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